Toy Breed Related Medical Problems
Many conditions appear to be especially prominent in Toy breeds. Sometimes it is possible to identify the genetic basis of a problem, but in many cases, we must be satisfied with merely identifying the breeds that are at risk and how the conditions can be identified, treated and prevented - following are some conditions that have been recognized as being common in the Toy breeds but this listing can never be considered complete, as more research is being done every day. Also, many genetic conditions may be common in certain breed lines, not in the breed in general.
People with allergies often sneeze and their eyes water; dogs with allergies scratch - they're itchy. The most common manifestations include licking and chewing at the front feet. There may also be face rubbing, a rash on the belly or the armpits and subsequent bacterial infections on the skin surface. The offenders are molds, pollens and household dusts that are present in the air.
It is difficult to pinpoint what, exactly, a dog may be allergic to. Beyond dust and mold, they can have allergic reactions to cleansers, fabrics, factors in the environment and, commonly, food ingredients. That's why Nature's Recipe devised the Group-specific diets - to help identify and eliminate food stuffs that may cause allergies in certain breed types.
Mild cases of allergy can be treated with antihistamines, fatty acid supplements (combinations of eicosapentaenoic acid and gamma-linolenic acid) and frequent soothing baths. Allergies that last for more than three to four months each year or are severe are best treated with immunotherapy (allergy shots). Corticosteroids effectively reduce the itch of allergy but can cause other medical problems with long-term use.
Cataracts refer to an opacity or cloudiness on the lens and ophthalmologists are careful to categorize them on the basis of stage, age of onset, and location. Many dogs adapt well to cataracts, but cataract removal surgery is available and quite successful if needed. Affected animals and their siblings should obviously not be used for breeding.
Corneal dystrophy is an abnormal developmental disorder in the clear cornea of the eye, which results in a hazy or crystalline opacity. This is a familial disorder in the Toy breeds. It is more common in females and tends to occur in middle or old age. The condition is believed to be transmitted as a dominant trait in the Toy breeds. Most animals are over five years of age when the opacity is first noticed. Problems tend to begin temporally and progress nasally (i.e., start at the edges of the eyes and work their way in towards the nose). The condition is usually slowly progressive, but severe edema may result in corneal erosions. Blindness is a possible consequence.
This is a condition in which the pressure of the fluid inside the eye increases as a result of injury to or disease of the eye. Depending on the extent of the pressure, individual treatments can be applied to lessen the pressure temporarily; if the condition is severe, the eye can be surgically removed.
Hypoglycemia refers to low blood levels of glucose. Transient juvenile hypoglycemia is seen in small dog breeds, including the Toy breeds, and is seen because of limited liver fat reserves and glucose forming enzymes.
Clinically, hypoglycemia is characterized by weakness, which can progress to trembling, seizures and coma. If the animal can eat, giving it a small meal should be sufficient to correct the clinical signs. If the animal can't eat, rubbing the gums with a sugar source such as dextrose, corn syrup, fruit juices, fructose or honey should elevate blood sugar levels. Hypoglycemia can best be managed by feeding a wellbalanced meal every four to six hours, reducing stress in the environment and periodically monitoring blood glucose levels.
It is easy for dogs to become overweight and even obese. They love to eat, and most won't stop just because they've had enough. Toy breeds, who spend a lot of time in laps, have an even greater chance of being fed "human" food-usually high-fat snacks. Toy breeds generally aren't the ones that get the most exercise, either, which compounds the problem. It's a known fact that obesity can decrease a dog's life, which is why feeding a proper diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is of paramount importance.
The patella is the kneecap, and patellar luxation refers to the condition when the kneecap slips out of its resting place and lodges on the inside of the knee. It is a congenital problem of dogs, but the degree of patellar displacement may increase with time as the tissues stretch and the bones continue to deform: The condition is seen primarily in small and Toy breeds of dogs.
Older dogs and those mildly affected may respond to conservative therapy, but surgery is often recommended for young dogs before arthritic changes become evident. After surgery, dogs should have enforced rest for six weeks while healing, and should only be exercised on leash. The results are excellent in most cases.
PROGRESSIVE RETINAL ATROPHY (PRA)
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) refers to several inherited disorders affecting the retina that result in blindness. PRA is thought to be inherited, with each breed demonstrating a specific age of onset and pattern of inheritance. All of the conditions described as progressive retinal atrophy have one thing in common. There is progressive atrophy or degeneration of the retinal tissue. Night blindness occurs first because the rods (which are responsible for vision in dim light) are affected first. Visual impairment occurs slowly but progressively. Therefore, animals often adapt to their reduced vision until it is compromised to near blindness. Because of this, owners may not notice any visual impairment until the condition has progressed significantly.
Unfortunately there is no treatment available for progressive retinal atrophy, and affected dogs will eventually go blind. Fortunately, PRA is not a painful condition and dogs do have other keen senses upon which they can depend.